For workers everywhere this is a battle that cannot afford to be lost

Hello to all our friends in vita cortex.

After following the vita cortex struggle over Christmas and the New Year it became apparent on returning to work in the New Year that the despicable treatment of this set of workers by their employer resonated very clearly with workers in our own workplace. When discussing the issue we realised that a lot of people had friend and families working in vita cortex. To show our support and   solidarity we decided to organise a sponsored walk from our location in Blackpool to the vita cortex factory.  We did the walk on the 4th of February (accompanied by Greg) and received a great welcome on arriving, by the vita cortex workers. The walk proved to be a great success  .

 

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The Yves Rocher workers present a hamper to the VC workers

On this visit and subsequent visits since, the courage and conviction you have shown has been an inspiration to all your supporters and we thank you for this.

 As day 100 of your principled protest approaches it strikes me that all the politicians who have lent their support and taken the photo opportunities along the way have gone very quiet at the moment, It is also clear that your real supporters are still with you 100% 

I would  call on union members In all workplaces to do everything you can to keep this topic a live issue ,For workers everywhere this is a battle that cannot afford to be lost.

So from all your friends, family and supporters in Yves Rocher Cork be assured of our whole hearted and continued support.

Liam Murphy

(Yves Rocher workers supporters of vita cortex workers)

Your courageous stand is an amazing inspiration to the rest of us who actually give a damn about what kind of society we want

To the VC32,

I really wish I wasn’t writing this post on this the 100th day of your occupation of the Vita Cortex factory but I wanted to mark it with a few words. Good to see you are still ‘keeping her lit’ but by right you should be at home in the bosom of your families with your feet up and savoring your victory over the corporate greed of the arrogant reckless Ronan and his associates. I am sure that that day will come soon and I am delighted to read your newsflash and see things are progressing a bit. I believe your courageous stand and your struggle for your human rights and for justice is an amazing inspiration to the rest of us who actually give a damn about what kind of society we want in Ireland i.e one based on justice and equality.

A few weeks ago it was my privileged to travel to Cork with my cousin Teena to participate in the vigil at the VC factory. We thoroughly enjoyed listening to the music, poetry and stories and appreciated your wonderful hospitality in the canteen. Nights like that have a tendency to stir people and refocus us on what is actually important in life, not superficial material ‘wants’ but on values such as solidarity, common decency and justice.

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Una and Tomas with Martina and Alan after the vigil

On the spin down to Cork that Friday night we spoke a lot about what it must be like for you sitting in occupation, about the effect it must be having on you and your families and on your health and well-being. It brought to mind the similar struggle by our own Waterford Crystal workers some years ago. It was also our privilege then to support our family and friends who worked in Waterford Crystal and who also stood up to the bosses and the greedy shareholders.

We left Cork that night talking about Teena’s dad Peter O’Connor who, at a very young age, decided to go and fight Franco & the fascists in Spain. He was, and still is, a great inspiration to our family and to many people in Waterford and around the world.   Like you, he too took a stand, like you he said enough is enough & went and took action, He was with us that night in spirit, of that we are sure, and would probably have asked to stay with ye in the factory for the duration. Would that more of us had his and your courage to take on the injustices perpetrated by those in our society who are supremacists, who believe they have a divine right to walk all over people and who belong to that elite group who have in the past and continue to use, abuse and screw this country and its good people for huge personal gain and wealth. I hope the next few days will bring about a just result for ye and that you are home soon enjoying normal family life again. Both Teena and myself are very proud to be playing a small part in the campaign in solidarity with you all.   NO PASARÁN !

Úna Ryan

Úna Ryan from Waterford, a Vita Cortex workers supporter, writes her thoughts on Day 100. Her views are her own.

Images of Protest: Photographer Captures the Spirit of The Vita Cortex Workers to Mark 100 Days of Struggle

A series of photographs capturing the spirit of the protesting Vita Cortex workers has been produced in order to mark the 100th day of the sit-in. Conor Buckley a freelance documentary photographer from Dublin visited the factory and shot the workers      depicting them in their former job roles.

” I got in contact with the lads from the online campaign and told them that my idea was to show the contrast between the images of these workers in terms their of past and present. These guys were once ordinary workers living to provide for their families and over the past 100 days their faces have become images of social struggle. These people have worked hard all their lives many serving over 40 years in this environment  to produce profit, now they have to occupy the same space in order to obtain what is morally owed to them.” said Conor.

Martina Anderson who has 22 years of service at Vita Cortex © 2011 Conor Buckley

These photographs are part of an ongoing  series aimed at documenting Ireland’s current economic and  sociological shift. The photographs depict how ordinary peoples lives have being drastically altered by the decisions and speculation of      others, they show how roles have changed from worker to protester,  from production space to dereliction.

The workers of Vita Cortex have been occupying the factory on the Kinsale Road in Cork since December 16th 2011. A resolution to the dispute has not been forthcoming despite a series of engagements with the Labour Relations Commission.

It is great that Conor has taken the time to  produce these photographs. I suppose it provide us with  another way of telling our story.  I was reading an article last week about how art in Britain experienced a renaissance of sorts during the Miners’ strikers in the early 80s. People used art as lens through which to understand and explain the changing nature of the times in which they lived. I think one day we will use art to try understand these 100 days,” said Greg Marshall who has 37 years service at Vita Cortex.

It has been a privilege and a great honour for me to have shared 100 days of moments

After one hundred days looks of steely determination adorn unshaven faces, fortified glances of singular purpose flash from tired eyes whilst strength of mind and gritty resilience dominate the canteen as one shift replaces the previous.

One hundred unforeseen days and one hundred unimaginable nights of physical and psychological imprisonment have imposed themselves on workers who have already toiled over decades to create profits for others. Their expectations were meagre and they anticipated nothing more than was the precedent in that company; they assumed nothing more than what was promised.

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Ann joins Denny and Greg on the night shift in solidarity

This was a viable company. At a time of mammoth unemployment in an era where many businesses cannot survive, it is a factual but pessimistic realisation that this company could have continued to employ workers and serve demanding customers.

This is not merely about the point nine. This is about principle. It is about respecting one specific group of employees; it is about honouring an agreement. Moreover it is about the implications of the outcome of this case for all other workers in the state.

Tremendous support from the public continues to be overwhelmingly impressive. So much kindness continues to pour abundantly into the factory in limitless forms. This benevolent compassion has intensified the resolve of the workers – they persist to protest with an unflagging and unfaltering steadfastness which can only be respected and commended.

The unity of the group remains exceptionally solid and robust; direct honesty governs all
interactions. The consequence of such communication is an extremely unified group of people, each with a profound consciousness of morality and fairness. There is a remarkable sense of oneness as the entire troop is so well co-ordinated in every aspect of their crusade.

It has been a privilege and a great honour for me to have shared many moments of the past one hundred days with inspiring incredible people in their most unfavourable and unpleasant predicament.

Ann Piggott, teacher in Kenmare Community College, CCTU President and Vita Cortex Workers Supporter writes about her experience with the workers 100 days in. Her views are her own.

An occupation is the last resort for any worker

In December 2011 two sets of employees were badly let down and lied to by their employers. I was a manager of a small Concession with 11 hard working staff. Rumours started circulating that La Senza was in difficulties . For the following 26 dayswe were led to believe that through hard work and increased sales we could save jobs. 

While we spent our Christmas working to save our jobs , the vita cortex workers began their fight for justice. Seeing what had happened to these workers rang alarm bells and we began to prepare for the worst case scenario…La Senza walking away without any financial  responsibility to staff. 24 days after Vita Cortex occupied their factory for payments owed to them by a company they had given years of their life to, we found ourselves faced with the same situation. On the 9th of January we knew our time was up and they would leave us with nothing. I spent the day talking to other managers and discussing how we could prevent this. That day we decided to occupy the store in Liffey Valley. This took courage and strength and we got this from the stand the V32 had already started. The rest as they say is history.

The day I arrived back to cork after the occupation Vita Cortex were holding a rally which we attended in solidarity and I cannot believe that  70 days later those workers are still being denied was is rightfully theirs. 

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The former La Senza and Vita Cortex staff stand in solidarity

An occupation is the last resort for any worker but the truth is while the laws in this country continue to support thegreedy  and leaving the burden on the tax payer, you and I, sit-ins  will become  an everyday occurrence. I believe that these high profile cases are beginning to work and politicians are being challenged to change the laws or at least make them more robust in these difficult times.   Those who believed they could hide away from their responsibilities are being forced out into the open and being held accountable and shown to the public for their shameful actions. 

Prior to the Chinese presidents visit to Ireland Enda Kenny proudly boasted our 100% record in human rights. He may need to adjust that figure as 32 workers spend their 100th day in a factory fighting for justice for all workers.

Continued thanks and support to the V32 for what you made us achieve

Deirdre McCaffrey, former La Senza worker and Vita Cortex supporter writes on Day 100. Her views are her own

You’ve sort of changed my life in a way, perhaps just to say that you’ve taught me the value of courage

I don’t believe in co-incidences in life so the night I came to get involved in VC32 plight, I believe was fate. Even though I was in training for the half marathon in June, on that particular night I was too tired to go for a jog. My folks rang and they were going for a walk so I mustered up the energy and tagged along. We are all from Grange and walked to Ballyphehane. I have  passed the Vita Cortex factory a million times in life but that night as we passed the gates, I looked up and saw one of the VC32 standing in the window. Mum is big on current affairs and we had a chat about the situation the whole way home. My main emotion was sympathy and I felt so much empathy for the people in that canteen. I instantly imagined it being my brother, father, mother, cousin etc up there.

I called in shortly afterwards and that first visit cemented my support for the VC32. In life I believe in strong morals, values and ethics which I choose to embrace as best I can and (leaving aside the horror of the situation) and I am heartened to see these traits in other people, namely the VC32. Their strength, the commitment to their beliefs, their friendship to one another and good will and appreciation of all their supporters won me over.

Every time we call in the workers welcome us with a smile and an offer of a cup of tea. I have brought my sons to see the VC32. At the weekend Leo, my eldest asked “Are we going to the brave people mammy?” (although he really only wants the sweets that the workers line his pockets with every time, what 5 year old wouldn’t!) I will tell Leo and AJ too (when he is older) about the struggle of the VC32, when ordinary people became extraordinary in a battle between what is right and what is wrong. I will tell him about the people who stood strong and said that no it is not ok to treat decent human beings like this, people who stood up for what they believed and did so with grace and dignity. I continue to be amazed by what you are doing and I will continue to support you all until the end. You’ve sort of changed my life in a way (that I find hard to explain actually), perhaps just to say that you’ve taught me the value of courage. I found this quote which I am going to finish with

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever”

With love, respect and great hope for you,

Liv Sheehan

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Karen O’ Mahoney and her mother Helen with Greg at the rally in Cork City.

 I first heard about the Vita Cortex plight on 96fm news, and joined the facebook page a few days later. It was early days in the struggle and I think there were 60 followers at the time. Hailing from Grange and going to primary school in Turners Cross,  the factory was a landmark I passed by most days while growing up. One of my first jobs was working in Ferrero back in the early 1990’s for a few years so I was horrified that 32 Cork locals were reduced to sitting in a cold factory day in day out because they were been refused redundancy that they were entitled to. The more I heard about the situation, the more angry I became. With my mother Helen feeling the same way, we went along to the factory, the march and the vigil to offer support. We also called in one evening and were made feel very welcome by the workers there at the time, Cork banter being on top of the list. Mum and Greg got talking about the olden days, like the Majorca dance hall and I had a chat with one worker in particular about Christy Brown (ha ha!). Although I noticed the workers were in good spirits, I could recognise the tiredness and the toll it was taking on them.

I am shocked and angry that this is still going on 100 days later. The corrupt government has done nothing in my opinion to intervene and as usual it is the ordinary hard worker that gets the short straw. Meanwhile the owners appear to go about their daily business without a care in the world. The last few years have been very tough on everyone in Cork and around the country, with job losses, pay cuts, rise in inflation. The stand the Vita Cortex workers have made came at a time when we could not take anymore.

Each one of the 32 workers should hold their heads up high and be proud of what they have stood up against. I really hope they get a resolution very soon.

Keep her lit.
Karen O’ Mahoney

The world knows them as struggling workers, I know them as my friends

I still remember my first day at work in Vita Cortex in April of 1972. It was pre the oil crisis and we were experiencing a bit of an economic boom. Situations vacant in the daily newspapers were 10 a penny, but from that first day in 1972 I was so happy and contented in my job it never entered my mind to leave. As a group of workers we were one big happy family, management were fair and everyone did their job to the best of their ability.  As the remit of work done in the factory expanded the wealth of management grew and all were content.

Everyone following this campaign has got to know bits and pieces about these struggling workers. I know them as my friends and there is so much more everyone should know about them.

Greg was one of the most dedicated workers I ever met, his job was the most important thing in his life and he carried out his tasks above and beyond the call of duty for 12 hours a day, 5 days a week and more. By now everyone knows that Greg is fiery. We fought like a cat and dog at times when there was pressure to have sales orders filled with tight deadlines.  But he never failed to deliver on my requests, every truck was ready for every driver the next day and every client was satisfied. And then we laughed and made up.

Cal, Alan, and Jim were the long distance and local drivers. They were always so accommodating and in such good humour. Even when new customer orders meant complicated delivery routes they never complained. Helen and Lillian in the sewing department were always at the ready with the needle and thread to put the last minute orders into action. Kevin McCabe was a complete gentleman, any time he saw me struggling to carry products up the factory to the office, he would appear from nowhere to come to my help. Timmy Burke would always fit in an emergency order without complaint.  All who worked there were wonderful people. The customers who came in on a regular basis always commented on the good atmosphere which existed in Vita.

 

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I remember the days like yesterday. Maybe I am wearing rose tinted glasses as I think back over almost 40 years but to me they were good old days. Many  a night I could be sitting watching tv and suddenly something relating to work would pop into my mind so I would pop across the road to check all was in order for the following day. My kids would say “mum it’s like your second home” and it was. That was the Vita Cortex I knew.

Last February 2011 due to health reasons, it became necessary for me to take redundancy. I was given the package at 2.9 weeks per year, no questions were asked and no bargaining was needed. 2.9 weeks was the norm received by all those who had left prior to that date.

There is such a discrepancy between how I was treated and the appalling way in which my former colleagues, my family are being treated now.  I really am very annoyed and surprised with the former owners, in particular Mr McHenry whom I always held in high regard. For that reason I have supported the campaign from day one, attending the rallies and concerts and sitting in on some of the shifts. I believe this issue has gone on too long. I believe representatives of the owners and workers should work together to come to a resolution. I am proud to be part of the vc32 and the great dignity and composure they have shown. On Day 100 I continue to support them and hope that after so long this story does not fade in to the background. These workers are not just faceless nameless people fighting for redundancy, they are ordinary people who want justice for everyone, they are hard-working and deserving, they are my friends and I urge everyone to continue to rally behind them. 

 

Eleanor Murphy worked at Vita Cortex from 1972 – 2011. She wrote this on the 100th day of the struggle. Her views are her own.